Tag Archives: S.Low Projekt

Ima Picó’s East/West Berlin Telephone-Ring Tone

Ima Picó with her daughter Aitana

Ima Picó is a visual artist, curator and a ringtone contributor from last year (when Locally Toned visited Valencia, Spain). She also played a key role in planning and coordinating the S.Low Projekt in Berlin (and invited Locally Toned to be a part of the project). Although Ima attended the Open Ringtone Recording Session at N.K., she opted to invite me to her family’s Prenzlauer Berg flat to record their old army green Western Electric telephone.

This telephone came from the Mauerpark Flohmarkt (flea market at Mauerpark). It’s still in use, has a great-sounding bell and has an interesting and quite faded warning (sticker) on the reciever. As far as we could tell, the sticker cautioned users to be careful of what they said, noting that their conversations might be picked up and/or recorded. More about the sticker in a moment, but first–have a listen to Ima’s East/West Berlin Telephone-Ring Tone. The audio take was recorded in the apartment on a breezy summer eve. If you listen carefully, you’ll hear a tiny bit of street traffic and wind rustling the curtains in the window.

I had a bit of fun over the last few days, trying to decipher the exact text on the sticker. First, I tried Googling terms like “East Berlin Telephone,” “tapping Berlin phones,” and “warnings on Berlin phones,” but that didn’t get me very far.

I'm guessing this is an antique WW2 Siemens Type Tesla Bakelite telephone

Then, yesterday, during a visit to the wonderful Museum der Dinge (Museum of Things) I spotted this older phone with a prominent “CAUTION NOT SECURE” warning on it. When I searched that term this morning, it led to this printable sticker-sheet .pdf from the Federation of American Scientists website:

Voila–the words from this document matched the words (and their placement) on Ima’s phone! I’m assuming that the phone would have been in West Berlin (during the DDR/GDR era), since the warning came from the old U.S. allies. Digging a bit further, I discovered that the document from the FAS-site index came from the Defense Department (DoD) of the United States, Intelligence and Security (Doctrine, Directives and Instructions). The sticker is, officially, a TELEPHONE MONITORING NOTIFICATION DETAIL.

Thanks to Ima Picó for her fun-for-me to research contribution to the project! You can read an extensive Wikipedia quote below (from this article), if you’d like a little more background about telecommunications in post-WWII East/West Germany.

“The Post Office also ran the telephone network in Berlin. It was in a sorry state in all four sectors, because by July 1945, before the Western Allies took control of their sectors, the Soviets had dismantled and deported almost all automatic telephone switches, allowing direct dialling instead of operator connected calling. So Berlin’s telephone network dropped from hundreds of thousands of connected telephones to a mere 750 in use by end of 1945, all of which were assigned to Allied staff or utility services. Rebuilding the system became a lengthy enterprise because of the post-war economic crisis and the following Berlin Blockade. On 25 February 1946 calls between Berlin and any of the four Allied zones of occupation were again made possible. In April 1949 the Eastern branch of the Deutsche Post disconnected all 89 existing telephone lines from West Berlin into the Soviet Zone of occupation in Germany.

Meanwhile West Berlin was integrated into the West German telephone network, using the same international dialling code as West Germany, +49, with the area code 030. On 27 May 1952 the EasternDeutsche Post cut all 4,000 lines connecting East and West Berlin. In order to reduce Eastern tapping of telecommunications between West Berlin and West Germany microwave radio relay connections were built, which wirelessly transmitted telephone calls between antenna towers in West Germany and West Berlin, where two of which were built, one antenna in Berlin-Wannsee and later a second in Berlin-Frohnau, finished on 16 May 1980 with a height of 358 m (1,175 ft) (this tower was demolished on 8 February 2009).

Following the détente, on 31 January 1971 East Germany allowed the opening of 10 telephone lines between East and West Berlin. The Western area code for East Berlin was then 00372 (international access prefix 00, East German country code 37, area code 2). Calls from East Berlin were only possible with operator assistance. On 24 June 1972 East Germany opened 32 local exchanges (including Potsdam) in the East German suburbia of West Berlin for calls from West Berlin. From 14 April 1975 East Berliners could once again dial directly to West Berlin, without operator assistance. East Germany conceded to an increase in lines between East and West Berlin to 120 on 15 December 1981. However, private phones were very rare in the East. In 1989, the 17 million East Germans (including East Berliners) were served by only 4 million telephones, only half of which were installed in private homes, the rest being in offices, companies, public telephone kiosks, and the like.”

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Tones from the Open Ringtone Recording Session at N.K./Part III (Berlin, Germany)

Andres Roman is a visual artist from Spain. He brought a small fan and some inflated plastic packaging (the sort that would encase a photo copier toner refill) to our Open Ringtone Recording Session in Berlin. We all discovered that playing that kind of plastic packaging against a small fan has a sort of raspberries effect–here’s his humorous Fan Toner Tone.

Arrgh! I can’t believe I forgot to take a photograph of the composer and sound researcher, Ricardo Climent (presently a resident of Manchester, England)! So I stole this one of him from the Inner-Webs of the Internets:

Thankfully, I didn’t forget to take a picture of the old Berlin mechanical clock he found at the Mauerpark Flohmarkt (the flea market at Mauer Park).

Ricardo opened up the back of the clock, pointed out that there was a little carillon inside, and then he used a set of keys to play the clock as an instrument. I chose one of his carillon key gesture “takes” from the audio I recorded, and repeated the phrase for his lovely El reloj de l’abuela (Grandmother’s Clock) Ringtone.

Numcy Behrendt, a financial adviser and a musician who plays guitar, piano and bass, brought in two instruments he usually does not play to our workshop–a güiro and a pan pipe.

I chose a short take from Numcy’s innagural flute-playing track to make this Pan Pipe Alert (the perfect length for a text or picture message alert).

And here’s his Numcy’s T(r)icky Metal Güiro Tone.

That does it for the S.Low Projekt Open Ringtone Recording Session series, but there are still more Berlin tones a comin’. Thanks to today’s Locally Toned contributors–Andreas, Ricardo and Numcy!

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Tones from the Open Ringtone Recording Session at N.K./Part II (Berlin, Germany)

Meet Aitana! She’s 9 years old, has a vast stuffed animal collection and goes to school in Manchester, England.

She brought two sound-making devices to the S.LOW Projekt-affiliated workshop at N.K. to turn into ringtones. Her first, a brief text (or picture) message alert, was made with this little plush, pull-string animal. Mousie Motor Message Alert consists of the sound of the little mouse scampering over a plastic chair.

Aitana also brought this little creature in with his very own YOU SHOULD BE A RINGTONE badge. I loved it!

This is a wonderful instrument Aitana made during a Chiptune Marching Band workshop at N.K.

The homemade instrument has a wind up handle and sensors on it, and depending upon which sensors are in use, the device will make quite different sounds. The audio file we liked best came when Aitana cranked the handle and utilized the light-sensor. Here is her Chip Tune Tone. Personally, I think it sounds like elephant-type animals that live on some far off planet in space!

Phil Tesner, a.k.a. “Renset,” is originally from the United States. Nowadays he lives in Berlin and works with electronics and experimental sound. He came to the workshop with a few of his handmade devices to play. You may have recognized him from the magical photo I posted on the blog yesterday of him as the kick off image to this series of tones.

His first ringtone was made by applying an induction coil to a turned-on video projector. To record this audio, we went straight out of Renset’s device, into a sound board and then out into my recorder. Here’s his Induction Coil Tone.

This is Renset’s awesome sound-making device made from the innards of a CD player. I thought it would work best as a text or picture message alert. Here’s Renset’s CD Player Oscillator Alert.

There are still more tones to come from the N.K. workshop, so be sure to stay “toned.”   😉

Thanks to Aitana and Renset for their wonderful contributions to the project!

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Tones from the Open Ringtone Recording Session at N.K./Part I (Berlin, Germany)

Last Friday I headed out to N.K., an artist run independent non-profit organization in Berlin that is dedicated to Sound Arts for my Open Ringtone Recording Session as part of my work for S.LOW Projekt. We recorded a total of 17 tracks during the workshop, and since ten or more ringtones/message alerts will be published from the session, I’ll blog about and publish 3-5 tones each day.

First in the series is a tone from the artist Iain McCurry (from Northern Ireland). He brought in an old typewriter which was found at the Mauerpark Flohmarkt (the flea market at Mauer Park). Here’s Iain’s Mercedes Typewriter Tone. He said wanted to record the sound of this typewriter  “because it’s the sound of a beautiful piece of [older] mechanics amidst today’s highly tech-driven world.”

Artist Gail Ritchie (from Belfast, Ireland) showed up with her Swedish orthopedic clogs, and requested that the microphone remain in a fixed position as she ran down the hallway. You’ll hear her fast footwork on concrete in her ringtone entitled Arrival. Since it was a short “take” I looped (repeated) the audio file to turn it into a ringtone.

Jonathan Reus, who’s presently an invited artist-in-residence at N.K., brought his beautiful orange Magnus Organ (also found at the Mauerpark Flohmarkt) to our session. We all noticed that it was very loud upon start-up, and since I loved the fluctuating “white noise” that it made, I requested that we record that sound first. Here’s the quiet Magnus Organ Turn-On Tone. Jonathan then played a sweetly sad (or perhaps haunting, said another workshop attendee) melody for the Magnus Organ Ringtone.

That’s not all, folks–stay tuned for more tones from this series.

Thanks to Iain, Gail and Jonathan for their contributions to Locally Toned, Berlin!

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Locally Toned (Has Landed) in Berlin

I’m excited to be here as part of S.Low Projekt to capture a new series of tones that answer the question:

So far, I’ve been going on some Ringtone Reconnaissance Missions,

but I’d really like to connect with some people in the city to collaborate on some tones. Please help spread the word!

Tomorrow I’m on a panel:

Friday I’m giving an artist presentation and then am doing an Open Studio Ringtone Recording Session.

Alles klar?! Danke schön!

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